Mosaic I (Fall 2008) - Syllabus

Mosaic I: Humanities Seminar

IH 8851 | CRN 091665 - 43 | TR 11:40-1:00 | Room: Ritter Hall 111

Course Syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Aaron Smuts | | office hours: 746 Anderson Hall, 2:30-4:00 R


The goal of this course is to introduce students to profoundly influential works of poetry, drama, philosophy, religion, and literature. Our focus will be more philosophical than historical. Students will gain familiarly with exemplary texts that challenge them to evaluate some of their most fundamental beliefs. Along the way, we will explore numerous philosophical questions, including the following: Is any conceivable form of immortality desirable? Can morality be grounded in religion? Is evil compatible with the existence of God? Do we have reason to act morally? Do we have any reason to obey the law? What makes something worthy of worship? Is it rational to fear death? Is death bad for the one who dies? Can we make sense of the very idea of re-incarnation?


There are nine required texts for this course:

  1. *The Epic of Gilgamesh. Trans. Andrew George. Penguin Classics, 2003. ISBN 0140449191.

  2. De las Casas, Bartolomé. An Account, Much Abbreviated, of the Destruction of the Indies. Ed. and intro. Franklin W. Knight. Trans. Andrew Hurley. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2003. ISBN 0872206254.

  3. *Freud, Sigmund. Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis: The Standard Edition. Trans. and ed. James Strachey. W.W. Norton and Company, 1966. ISBN 0871401185.

  4. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Washington Square Press, New York, 2003. Folger Library Shakespeare. ISBN 067172262x.

  5. *Plato. The Trial and Death of Socrates, 3rd edition. Trans. G.M.A. Grube. Rev. John M. Cooper. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2000. ISBN 0872205541.

  6. Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and It’s Discontents: The Standard Edition. Trans. and ed. James Strachey. W.W. Norton and Company, 1961. ISBN 0393301583.

  7. *Bible, NRSV

  8. *Laozi. The Daodejing of Laozi. Ed. and trans. Philip Ivanhoe. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2003. ISBN 0872207013.

  9. The Bhagavad-Gita. Trans. Barbara Stoller Miller. New York: Bantam Books, 1986 (latest edition 2004). ISBN 0553213652.

I will post a few additional readings on Blackboard.

*All Mosaic I courses are divided into the same four, loosely connected units. The texts marked with an asterisk are required of all Mosaic I courses.


There will be three forms of coursework: (best 20 out of 25) daily quizzes, two papers, and two take-home examinations. I will give a short quiz at the beginning of each class that will require one or two sentence answers. There will be two papers of 3-4 pages on assigned topics. There will also be a mid-term and a final examination.

Quizzes (10%) + Paper 1 (20%) + Paper 2 (25%) + midterm (20%) + final (25%).

Attendance Policy

If you miss 6 or more classes, you will receive a 0 for your quiz grade. If you miss 12 or more classes, you will receive an F for the course.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism—claiming someone else’s ideas or written work as your own—will not be tolerated. Anyone caught cheating will be given a failing grade in the course.

Class Schedule

Unit I Journeys

Week 1

T (9/2): Introduction to the Liberal Arts

R (9/4): Gilgamesh, tablets I-VI (pp. 1-54)

Week 2 Immortality

T (9/9): Gilgamesh, tablets VII-XII (pp. 54- 100); Freud, “Our Attitude Towards Death” [Blackboard]

R (9/11): Bernard Williams, "The Makropulos Case" (Blackboard)

Week 3 Immorality, cont.

T (9/16): Borges, "The Immortal" [Blackboard]

R (9/18): De las Casas, (pp. 1-38)

Optional: Knight's "Introduction" (pp. x-l)

Week 4 Exploitation

T (9/23): De las Casas, (pp. 38-88); start movie: “Aguirre Wrath of God” (Werner Herzog)

[class meets in RA 580]

R (9/25): De las Casas, (pp. 68-88); finish movie: “Aguirre Wrath of God” (Werner Herzog)

[class meets in RA 580]

Unit II The Self and Others

Week 5 Dreams

T (9/30): Freud, Introductory Lectures, "Introduction" (I, pp. 17-29), and "Difficulties and First Approaches" (V, pp. 101-121).

R (10/2): Freud, Introductory Lectures, "The Dream Work" (XI, pp. 209-226), and "Wish-Fulfillment" (XIV, pp.264-282)

Paper I Due

Week 6 Sex

T (10/7): Freud, Introductory Lectures, "Resistance and Repression" (XIX, pp. 354-374) and "The Sexual Life of Human Beings" (XX, pp. 375-396)

R (10/9): Freud, Introductory Lectures, "The Development of the Libido and the Sexual Organization" (XXI, pp. 397-420) and "Some Thoughts on Development and Regression—Aetiology" (XXII, pp.421-444)

Week 7

T (10/14): Hamlet, Act 1

R (10/16): Hamlet, Acts 2 and 3

Week 8

T (10/21): Hamlet, Act 4

R (10/23): Hamlet, Act 5

Unit III Community

Week 9 Divine Command Theory

T (10/28): Plato, Euthyphro, in Trial and Death of Socrates

R (10/31): Erik Wielenberg, "God and Morality" [Blackboard]

Midterm Due

Week 10 Fear of Death

T (11/4): Apology, in Trial and Death of Socrates

R (11/6): Epicurus, "Letter to Monoeceus" [Blackboard]

Week 11 Social Contract

T (11/11): Crito and Phaedo, in Trial and Death of Socrates

R (11/13): Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, chs. I - IV (pp. 10-63)

Week 12 Repression and Guilt

T (11/18): Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, chs. V-VII (pp. 64-112)

Unit IV Religion

R (11/20): Genesis, Ch. 1-23

Week 13 Power and Worship

T (11/25): Exodus, Ch. 1-35

Paper II due

R (11/27): Thanksgiving

Week 14

T (12/2): Dao, Book One (pp. 1-40)

R (12/4): Dao, Book One (pp. 41-100)

Week 15 Reincarnation and Personal Identity

T (12/9): Bhagavad-Gita, 1st-9th Teaching (pp. 23-90)

End of Classes

Week 16 (Final exam week)